Praying Intentionally

Lately, I’ve tried to be more intentional with my prayer life. When a friend will tell me something specific to pray for, I will stop in that moment and audibly pray. Instead of responding with “I’m praying for you!” I can say specifically and honestly what I just prayed for. I can’t take credit for this idea, though. A friend shared it with me a while ago, and I think she read it or heard it somewhere, but it’s an idea that has stuck and been life-changing. If we’re being honest, how many times do people throw around “I’m praying for you!” but never actually do it? I used to all the time!

I’ve even taken this practice a step further in some instances and prayed over the phone or sent a voice memo of my prayer. I don’t doubt that God hears all of my prayers whether they’re written down, out loud, or just in my heart, but there’s something about the intentionality of prayer that has made me feel closer to the Lord.

I mentioned in my previous post that I started a plan to read the entire Bible in 2021 (here is the guide I’m using), and for the first time consistently, I’m abiding — remaining — in God’s word daily. John 15:7 says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” Jesus is speaking to his disciples here, and he’s echoing Psalms 37:4, which I also mentioned last week.

For someone who doesn’t know Jesus or even someone new in their walk with the Lord, Jesus’s words might make it seem as though He’s a genie: Ask and you shall receive. This is far from the truth, though, because when you are truly abiding with the Lord, your “wishes” become more aligned with God’s plan and purpose for your life and less about your own selfish desires.

I’ve had this little prayer box on my nightstand for a couple of years, but in April this year I started using it. I actually implemented a similar practice back in college, and I shared it with my sorority sisters when I led a Bible study. You don’t need to write anything down to have an intentional prayer life, but there’s something extremely empowering about being able to look back at where your heart was on a certain date and reflect on how God showed up for you, which oftentimes is in a completely unexpected way. Some of the prayers I’ve placed in the box are long term, but others I’ve already seen answered in my life, especially when I’ve prayed specifically. God will move in your life no matter if you intentionally pray or not, but it’s so much sweeter and easier grow in relationship with Him when you pray intentionally.

Recently, a friend recommended the podcast The High Note with Tauren Wells, and she specifically told me to listen to two episodes he did on prayer back in January called Faith, Prayer, & Aligning with God: How do I change the world? and Pt. 2-Faith, Prayer, & Aligning with God: How do I pray? I found these episodes to be both encouraging and convicting. Tauren spoke deeper into the idea of specific versus generic prayer, and he posed the question if God answered all the prayers you’ve been praying, would it change anyone else’s world?

*mic drop*

God already knows our hearts, so even if we never say out loud or write on paper the things we’re really thinking, our own selfishness is on full display for Him. The good news, though, is that this doesn’t scare Him away or make Him love us any less; He just wants us to be honest. It’s okay to question God and to selfishly ask Him for something and especially to thank Him for the blessings in your life and even to ask for more. But what if our prayer posture was more focused on the kingdom than our own lives? What if we were fearless and selfless enough to really pray that way?

I wouldn’t consider this a kingdom changing prayer, and Tauren would say it’s more of a generic prayer, but last Saturday as I was driving to my friend’s bridal shower, I said to God something along the lines of “Use me today at this shower. Help them see You in me.” Talking to God in the car is something I learned to love in college (see Transferred and Commuting), and the way He answered my prayer at the shower is a beautifully messy example of why specific prayer is far better than generic prayer like Tauren discusses in part two of the aforementioned podcast.

I pulled up to the house, and there weren’t many cars there. I saw my friend’s fiancé working under his car in the driveway and walked past him to the front door. I was about three minutes late but thought nothing of it. I walked up to the front door, rang the door bell, and was immediately welcomed in by my friend’s sister-in-law. She asked if I was a friend from out of town, and I said no, thinking nothing of the question because I hadn’t met her before. Then I sat down to text my two friends and ask why no one else was there yet… I was informed that the invitation said 3:00, NOT 2:00, and I had put the time wrong on my phone calendar. I was mortified!

So there I sat with AN HOUR to kill in a person’s house I didn’t know. I’ll admit I was a phone face most of the time and entirely forgot what I had prayed on the drive there. I was able to watch my friend’s nephew for a little bit while her sister- and mother-in-law continued setting up for the shower, and then I helped get the photo slideshow working its best. Everyone eventually laughed about the situation — especially the bride-to-be — and I was so grateful for the grace and hospitality I was given. Usually, I would be so anxiety-ridden in a situation like that, and had I realized what I’d done before getting out of the car, I probably would’ve stayed there or backed out of their driveway, but God had other plans and protected my mind from any of that.

Like I said, this isn’t huge kingdom changing stuff, but the more I thought about what I considered a very unfortunate circumstance, the more I knew that God had showed up through me, just as I had prayed. I asked for God to use me, and He did, which I’m able to recognize because I’ve been dwelling with Him in His Word daily and praying intentionally.

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